How to grab attention

Training professionals need to stand up and be noticed. Here corporate image
consultant Lesley Everett gives an expert view on making a positive impact when
presenting to an audience

One of the biggest problems in business today is not the lack of expertise,
knowledge and skills, but rather the lack of an effective delivery system to
convey that knowledge with maximum impact.

First of all, we need to be aware of the facts that surround the way we
present ourselves. We can then fully appreciate the power of our personal image
and the absolute need to present a positive impact in our non-verbal
communication, particularly – and essentially – in a business environment.

We tend to believe what we see rather than what we hear, therefore if there
is no synergy or consistency between our non-verbal communication – that is our
body language and our appearance – and the key messages portrayed by our words
and marketing collateral, our non-verbal message is very likely to be taken as
the reality.

Much research has been done in this area. Studies into how we come across to
an audience, at one-to-one meetings or large audience presentations, show that
the impression and impact we make is clearly split into three separate

– Appearance and body language

– Quality of voice

– Content or words

This research shows that the impact we make on our audience is 93 per cent
based on our total personal package. We cannot afford, therefore, to ignore the
potentially negative impression we could present of ourselves, our company and
our product.

Of course, we are not talking about fooling our audience into believing
we’re something we’re not, but about making sure our image does not obstruct
how we project qualities and abilities.

Great words and content will not erase a poor appearance, and remember, while
words alone are not enough to ensure success, a poor image will almost
guarantee failure.

What impression are you left with if a presenter looks scruffy? I bet that
firstly you’d be distracted and therefore not listening 100 per cent to the
words. You would also have a lack of respect for this presenter because they
are not commanding respect from you, by not paying attention to the way they
have chosen to present themselves to you.

Would you feel comfortable working with this person on an important project
or employing them to represent your company or brand?

Research also shows that we make almost instant judgments about people when
we meet them for the first time. We determine how professional or creative they
are purely by the way they look and speak.

In the first five seconds, we have made significant assumptions and in the
next five seconds we add another 50 per cent to that impression.

Sell yourself

We should all think about our own unique selling points and consider our own
personal "brand".

How do we really want to be perceived and how do we get these points across?
Take a long look at yourself and assess your strengths – these can be your
differentiators and are to be capitalised on. Any weaknesses must be addressed
in order not to get in the way of making a positive impact.

Corporate image

We also need to consider the corporate image of the company we are
representing. Millions of pounds are often spent on branding, advertising,
office premises, and so on, but what about the image of our people?

As we’ve seen, personal presentation accounts for around 93 per cent of the
impression we make, so surely companies should be investing in staff training
and coaching in this area?

Let’s think about your corporate image and culture. Try to put yourself in
the shoes of a potential client – what adjectives describe your company, its
approach and its products?

If your company prides itself on its creativity and dynamism, you should be
reflecting this.

For maximum impact and consistency, we need to ensure that we and our team
also portray the right values in the way we present ourselves.

And let’s consider the desired messages of quality and professionalism that
every company strives for. The marketing collateral, website, office premises
may be fantastic, but think of the damage that a sales person in a creased
suit, with scuffed shoes, will do to that quality message.

You will never look professional if you’re not appropriately dressed – there
are no set rules for what to wear, only guidelines, looking professional means
"being appropriate".

Dress-down policies

If your client has a dress-down policy, then consider this when deciding on
your clothes. It may not be appropriate for you to be dressed down, you can
achieve an appropriate style with co-ordinated jacket and trousers, and some
colour in your shirt or top.

Your objective for your presentation should be to get your message across
with maximum impact. There are a few key points to be aware of to ensure your
image doesn’t get in the way of projecting those messages.

Your voice represents a significant element (38 per cent) of the overall
impression you make. By varying tone and pitch and keeping strength in your
voice, you will come across as confident and in control. An accent, can be an advantage,
as long as it can be understood.

Along with appearance, body language represents around 55 per cent of the
overall impact we make on an audience. Ensure that yours creates the desired

Right equipment

Your equipment, being part of your delivery system, is also important for
conveying the right messages of quality and professionalism.

– High-tech presentations are best for audiences of 40 or more people; low-
tech – flipcharts and wipe-clean boards – are only suitable for small audiences.
Sometimes a combination is effective.

– Avoid overhead projectors if you want to make a positive impact.

– If using PowerPoint slides, make sure your template is appropriate to your
presentation and reflects the corporate culture. Avoid using the well-recognised
standard designs provided with your software.

– What about your projector? Is it a bit battered and worn? If so, replace

– Avoid using the other side of a used flipchart pad – it never looks

– Your audience will appreciate good-quality paper. Make sure your written
messages and the pens you use for them are readable.

– Remember, your tools are all part of the image you present of your
company. If they look past it, what sort of messages do they portray?

So next time you’re planning a presentation, pay at least as much attention
to the way you present yourself as the time spent on the slides and content –
it is the non-verbal message that will be remembered and believed.

Great words will not erase a poor appearance, but when a picture paints a
thousand words, just think what your image can do for you.

For more information on Positive Impact and High Impact Language & Body
seminars, workshops and presentations call Lesley Everett on 01344 427977 or

Good body language guide

Eye contact  Engage the whole
audience with effective and varied eye contact. Smile and try not to restrict
your eye contact to that friendly, smiling face in the front row

Don’t fidget and fiddle  It
will label you as nervous. Clear out pockets, and always keep your hands

Don’t touch your face when speaking You’ll come across as dishonest
and nervous

Don’t slouch  If you want to
look sharp, professional and ready for business, pay attention to rounded
shoulders and do your jacket up to improve posture if necessary

Video yourself  Make a tape to
view your presentation style and correct any irritating gestures and actions

Getting the grooming right

Good fit  No matter what you
spend on an outfit, if it doesn’t fit well it will never display quality. Find
yourself a good seamstress who will make alterations for you.

Stains on ties and clothes  Always
do a full-length check in the mirror before leaving the house. Stains and marks
on clothes that you can’t see by looking down, will be clearly visible to your
audience, and therefore a distraction.

Shoes  Dated or scruffy shoes
will be noticed. 

Hair  Long hair will always
look more professional tied back from your face. Short, neat styles will look
well groomed, and always make sure it’s clean!

Ties  Avoid anything with a
motif! And make sure your tie finishes with the point on the belt and not
halfway down your midriff!

Accessorising  Careful accessorising
with stylish jewellery, perhaps a brooch and classic earrings, suggest
attention to detail and that you finish a job well. But be careful not to
overdo it. If your trousers have loops, wear a belt, the outfit will never look
finished off if you don’t. 

Make-up  It’s essential for
women to look groomed. Seek advice, if necessary, on an effective and natural
professional look. Men shouldn’t rule out make-up so as not to look washed-out
on a stage with strong lighting.

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